Co-belligerents in the culture war

I’m a big fan of the Boy Scouts. Both my sons were scouts, one an Eagle Scout. My daughter would have been a great one, but for the fact she’s not a boy. Boy Scouts still think their name means something. Some groups, WMU (formerly Woman’s Missionary Union) and Campfire (formerly Campfire Girls) come to mind easily, have changed their PR stance so as to draw a broader clientele—they’d love to have some dudes to broaden their base of support. No big tent for the Boy Scouts; they are still just for boys. They have other standards as well.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have also specified a stance against homosexual scout leaders. They consider it to be in their best interests to enforce this policy. It is not a statement about what others should do or what a law should say. It is their own regulation, just like the part that says girls can’t be Boy Scouts. The United States Supreme Court has affirmed their right to have such regulations.

If 310,000 people “sign” an Internet petition, or if 31 million do so, BSA still has the right to do what they consider best. It is not sane to call this hate but it is discrimination. The Boy Scouts are discriminating between those who qualify to lead and those who do not, those who are boys and those who are not, and those who have earned their rank or merit badges and those who have not. Of course they do. Boys who want a badge but don’t prefer to earn it will no doubt consider this an unfortunate discrimination, as will homosexual people who prefer to be scout leaders.  

Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy also sets some standards for his organization. In a recent interview you’ve no doubt heard quoted, Mr. Cathy said he is a proponent of traditional marriage. He further told us that his company is based on what he considers biblical principles. The interview was not about other definitions of marriage or about the lifestyles of those who see things differently. But of course “traditional marriage” and “biblical” are descriptors that some consider controversial, even hateful.

“Hate” is another one of those words (like discrimination) that is about to run out of content. If we allow it to be used to describe those with whom we merely disagree as opposed to those who actually express hostility to us, “hate” no longer serves clear communications. Why would our cultural referees in the media allow such an unproven charge when they would not allow a similarly unjustified use of “murder” or “embezzlement” to go unqualified or challenged?

Instead of Internet petitions, Chick-fil-A is getting boycotts. The company is called bigoted, indecent, and homophobic, even by those who believe that the company and its CEO have the right to believe as they wish. Some college campuses and one city I’ve heard about are considering a ban of the fast-food franchise because they consider the company’s advocacy for traditional marriage to be over the line.

OK then. Maybe we spend too much time talking about our opponents in the culture war. Here are two friends. Fortunately, both BSA and Chick-fil-A offer great products. I wonder how popular a “rally around the restaurant” movement would be if the food was nasty or the employees rude. Anyway, we can endorse both these friends for many reasons. We should endorse them because they are in a firestorm; and it’s our firestorm.

The fury over what some call discrimination against homosexuals has risen to an amazing pitch. We may regret that this is becoming the cultural issue of our day, but it is. For many, the science is settled and biblical Christianity is on the wrong side of history. We’ve weathered such accusations before and it doesn’t change what’s right. This isn’t our only cause or our primary commission but we will need to know what we believe about the nature of marriage, and we’ll need to speak for it and live it in the face of challenges of all sorts. So long as people live in community, marriage will be the basic unit of that community.

We should stand with our friends on this issue, be they many or few, because they will become fewer. The difference between tolerance of those who are different and affirmation of nearly anything people do is currently too subtle for America’s opinion makers. We who are called “intolerant” because we do know the difference will soon be persecuted if our society continues down its current path. The praise and support of a few thousand churches could embolden institutions and businesses who’ve stuck their necks out for the sake of conviction to stand firm

Gary Ledbetter
Southern Baptist Texan
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